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April 28th, 2012
09:52 PM ET

My Faith: What does God sound like?

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN podcast of this piece: Karen Spears Zacharias is author of A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder (MacAdam/Cage, 2012) and is on Twitter at @karenzach.

By Karen Spears Zacharias, Special to CNN

I hear the audible voice of God. No, not in the same way that the Bible’s Eve did when God asked her outright and out loud: “Woman, what in my name have you done now?”

Scriptures don’t tell us specifically, but I suspect at that particular moment in eternity God must have sounded a lot like Perry Mason: “C’mon, tell the truth. You know I’m a specialist on getting people out of trouble.”

Bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry is a pastor’s daughter in Alabama. You’d think if God spoke to anybody, it would be a pastor’s child, but Patti swears she has never heard the voice of God. The only time God speaks to her is through the written word.

I find that odd since God talks to me all the time.


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Certainly God knows I’m an auditory learner, so if he wants my attention he has to talk to me. When God speaks to me, he sounds a lot like Garrison Keillor, host of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion." In other words, he’s engaging, often very funny, and almost always an absolute joy to be around. Even when God’s mad with me (more often that I care to admit), he’s fairly good-natured about it.

Theologians who study this sort of thing say that our image of God is formed by our relationships with our fathers. That image is formed in part by how our fathers speak to us. If they bark orders at us all the time, we might hear God as a crank. But if our fathers speak to us in instructive, encouraging tones, we may hear God as our best coach. My father died when I was young, so I don’t remember his voice, but I’ve listened to Garrison Keillor pretty regularly for 25 years.

When my husband and I were raising our children, we banned television from our household. "A Prairie Home Companion" was our primary form of entertainment on Sunday afternoons. With Sundays as our Sabbath, I suppose it is natural for me to associate God with Garrison.

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Many people don’t even speak to God, much less listen to what he has to say. I imagine for some the thought of a God as Garrison Keillor would be pure hell, what with all that Guy Noir Private Eye nonsense and those saccharin sweet ketchup commercials. Perhaps like a good mother, though, God resorts to a variety of different voices to reach all of her children. Do you identify any of the following?

- Spock, from “Star Trek,” is the defining voice of God. Spock is half-mother (human) and half-father (Vulcan). Who could be more egalitarian, more Godlike than that? Anyone who thinks of God as arbitrary and capricious needs to have a chat with Mr. Spock, who once so rightly noted, “Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.” Amen. Amen.

- James Earl Jones. If I heard that baritone voice calling to me from a burning bush, it would stop me in my tracks. Who cares that Jones couldn’t cut the muster at Fort Benning’s legendary Ranger school? That’s nothing more than boot camp for a bunch of hellions anyway. There is something about the thundering power of Jones’ voice that naturally evokes trust from us. And if we can’t have a God in whom we can trust, what’s the point?

- Surely, Jeff Bridges is the voice of God for all the remnant of Jesus Freaks now seeking refuge as Episcopalians. “I am not Mr. Lebowski,” Bridge’s says in Coen Brothers’ “Big Lewoski,” in one of the oft-quoted lines in that cult classic. “You’re Mr. Lebowski. I am The Dude, so that’s what you call me. That or His Dudeness or uh, Duder, or, El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing.” Of course, aging Jesus Freaks and Episcopalians alike are all about that brevity thing, so they happily go along with “the Dude abides,” another classic line from the film.

- Yoda, of “Star Wars,” is the voice of God for Zen-seeking, yoga-loving Emergent Christians. Emergents are the melting pot of Christianity, the place where hipsters who want to be spiritual but not religious go for community - typically a local brewery or Starbucks. “Luminous beings are we,” says Yoda. “Not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere!”

- Writer C. Terry Cline Jr. says when God speaks to him, it is in the scolding voice of Pee-Wee Herman - “What did I tell you?” In Cline’s latest book, "The Return of Edgar Caycee," Cline claims he was channeled by the previously deceased reincarnation guru, whose fan club has rivaled that of God’s. Is it any wonder God is miffed with Cline for conjuring up Caycee again?

- Your momma. Sonny Brewer, a Navy veteran and my editor at San Francisco’s publishing house MacAdam/Cage, says that the only voice he’s ever associated with God was his mother’s. Sonny’s mom has been nearly mute for nearly 20 years, the result of a stroke. “She can sing hymns but she can’t talk,” Sonny says. “When I think of God speaking to me, I think of my momma. Like God, she always loves me, even when I’m a bad boy.”

Whatever the cause, nobody enjoys getting the silent treatment. It is a particularly troubling matter when God goes silent on us, when we can’t hear his voice at all, whether it’s a tender whisper of encouragement, raucous laughter, or a thundering rebuke, it is then that we are most keenly aware of God.

Silence stills us. We pause and listen, ear pressed, waiting, anticipating, hoping for just a word of assurance that we have not been abandoned.

We all have had days when we feel like we’ve failed God. If in such moments we would listen to the wind in the trees, the waves curling on the beach, feet crunching in sand, and the song of the mockingbird as the evening sun sets, we would surely hear creator God singing hymns over us, his creation.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karen Spears Zacharias.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Movies

soundoff (3,288 Responses)
  1. William Ricard

    What does god sound like to me? Did you ever yell into an empty 55 gallon drum? You only hear your own voice yelling in the darkness, because that's all that is there.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • huh

      if god was in my head ; i would tell him to get the hell out lol .... of course if you hear voices ..... its not the g-d to begin with

      April 29, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  2. Greg Costas

    If the voice in your head is telling you that Yoda is from Star Trek, that's not god.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • goodness

      Every time i think to do the right thing like when the bank teller accidentily gave me an extra twenty bucks and i returned it god speaks to me. Or when i hold the door for someone or help someone i know he speaks to me . kindness and goodness is his message. So maybe not a real voice but his spirit lives in me and makes me a better person . For all you non believers i can not understand how even if you have doubts, why would you not just hope that there is something after death? To hopefully see all your loved ones and have eternal life. Is that not even worth a chance . Even still though, god loves you aethiests and will forgive you because he is loving and all that is good. He is greatness and through him you can attain all that is good. I just hope on your dying death bed you do not regret your actions because god does not want to force anyone to believe. God bless you all

      April 29, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'm an atheist so I doubt that, if there is a God, he loves me. I'd be pretty sure though that he could, at the very least, be able to spell the word atheist and use correct capitalization and punctuation.

      April 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  3. WWJD

    Jesus speaks to everyone. Only some take the path of the narrow and listen to His words and stay on HIS path

    April 29, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i prefer Dr. Seuss. much better advice and ethics.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • Chowski

      Jesus is Santa Claus for emotionally needy adults.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  4. Bootyfunk

    i'm pretty sure this is what God sounds like:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvanTLQGHiA

    April 29, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • huh

      http://atypicalguy.wordpress.com/2007/08/23/bush-god-told-me-to-attack-iraq/

      April 29, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • huh

      lol

      April 29, 2012 at 5:56 am |
  5. Moonbogg

    This god business is a joke.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:44 am |
    • from God's breakfast table

      yeah, it's a joke, but funny and entertaining when it's presented like this delusional woman did. I like fairy tales.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  6. Crichwich

    I don't care if your religious or atheist we can all agree the Yoda is NOT from Star Trek!
    "Yoda, also of “Star Trek,” is the voice of God for Zen-seeking,"

    April 29, 2012 at 5:43 am |
  7. TheBossSaid

    Very few people have ever lived who have heard God's voice. A large crowd once heard it but Jesus said that it wasn't for his benefit but theirs. It is extremely rare for God to speak to mankind. Even if He did, most people would not believe it was from Him.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i know a homeless guy that says he hears god's voice all the time. i'm trying to get him some help.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • Leif

      I think you would be hard-pressed to prove that anyone has ever heard the voice of God.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:47 am |
  8. Bootyfunk

    when you read the bible, use sponge bob square pants' voice when you read God's parts. it'll probably make the baby killing and mass genocide sound funny.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:39 am |
  9. Name*Chedar

    I wonder if God sound like the talking snake in the bible claim. That will be scary. Imagine you are under the apple tree resting when a snake comes around and start talking " hey take a bite in one of those apple and you will see what I see".

    April 29, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Hwy 9

      Ssssay...

      April 29, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  10. EuphoriCrest

    There are many medications available today that will be of great help to you, although there is no cure. I would ask your doctor about Thorazine or perhaps Haldol.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:32 am |
  11. Bootyfunk

    I have a better question:

    What does the Flying Spaghetti Monster sound like?

    All hail the FSM!

    Ramen.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • lolzz

      And then on the 8th day, the day of the all-you-can-eat special at East Side Marios, he said 'let there be spaghetti', and the spaghetti monster ™ was born. Omm nom nom!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      lolzz

      That is heresy. True believers know that The FSM's Noodly Appendages created the universe as a drunken accident. If you acknowledge your heresy and seek forgiveness, you may still be able to sup from His Beer Volcano.

      Ramen

      April 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  12. Hwy 9

    OK, I confess. I think, I'm not sure, but I think I once heard the voice of God say to me, "Don't worry. I'll take care of you," when I was scared while driving through a gorge in Denali State Park in the 80's. Now, it could have been God, OR it could have been me being scared to death and praying like a mad man as I crossed a narrow bridge in the driving rain and blistering wind. Whatever it was, it comforted me. ONCE. I've prayed many, many times before and after, and none of those prayers apparently warranted a response.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:32 am |
  13. bluemax77

    Like a forgery..!!

    April 29, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  14. Bootyfunk

    i
    can't
    believe
    this
    is
    a
    story.

    CNN = Fail at journalism

    April 29, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • Peggy

      It isn't a story, it 's an opinion piece.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • lolzz

      It's a trap!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  15. WWJD

    Jesus is the only answer.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • bluemax77

      To what...?

      April 29, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      jesus was a crazy, iron-age cult leader. nothing more.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • halfbakedlunatic

      Only if the question is "who is the biggest child molester on the planet"?

      April 29, 2012 at 5:31 am |
  16. Sitnalta

    It's stuff like this that's the reason why atheism is becoming so popular. God has been demoted to a personal cheerleader for the shallow and simple-minded.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • WWJD

      Atheism is a sin

      April 29, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      sin = fun

      April 29, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • bluemax77

      Religion is for the weak, vulnerable and easily exploited...I’ll take atheism and all the name calling any day over fairy tails and pretend friends...!

      April 29, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      WWJD: Let's get this straight...if we don't believe your god exists, then we don't believe in satan and we don't believe in heaven, hell or sin. Sin is a term that pertains to your god, nothing more. We are not hurting anyone by not believing and contrary to your previous delusional spewing most of us are well educated, fun loving adults who are quite capable of living good fulfilling lives without the need for an imaginary di.ctator to guide us. You have no clue as to what we are about. If anything you fit the definition of a sinner as given by your buybull...you are a hypocrite who judges people and your god says judging is sinful.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • WWJD

      You just ignore truth. Atheist fear Jesus and FEAR the Word of God but pretend they do not.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:01 am |
    • Daniel

      Simple-minded? You're right; leading scientists are just dumb.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  17. jackiesmith

    hearing voices is called schizophrenia. go to a psychiatrist.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  18. SixDegrees

    If you're hearing voices in your head, even if they sound like Garrison Keillor, you probably need to seek medical help.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  19. WWJD

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet Atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists causes problem in our religious society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Hitler (Denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are Atheists/Agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    ATHEISTS WILL BURN BURN BURN IN HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE WHERE THEY BELONG AND GOOD RIDDANCE TO THEM I WILL DANCE ON STREETS OF GOLD AND SMILE DOWN ON THEM FROM ABOVE

    April 29, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • Steven Brooks

      No, no...
      You specify belief in the ignorance and lies of Christianity.

      Enjoy your lies!

      April 29, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • Hwy 9

      And this is why people think you're nutz!

      April 29, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      koo koo!

      April 29, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • halfbakedlunatic

      You need to read the most recent posting on TheHalfBakedLunatic.com blog

      April 29, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • tomnikoly

      This is at least the second time I've seen I've seen this garbage posted in the belief blog. You're a troll...and not even a clever one.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • don.chamblee@gmail.com

      As a child, I remember our minister saying that in the early years of Christianity pagans would remark, "See those Christians, how they love one another." Perhaps. What's clearer to me now is how good you are at hating others.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:36 am |
    • John

      You write: ATHEISTS WILL BURN BURN BURN IN HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE WHERE THEY BELONG AND GOOD RIDDANCE TO THEM I WILL DANCE ON STREETS OF GOLD AND SMILE DOWN ON THEM FROM ABOVE

      Now take a look at your words. How Christian like does that sound?

      April 29, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • William Ricard

      A little over two years ago I discovered that I wasn't an atheist. It was on December 3, 2009 at 4am in the morning when my wife took her last breath. She died from cancer, actually she starved to death from the treatment for cancer. And I realized it was not logical to be this angry with something that didn't exist.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • Sid Airfoil

      Wow...and YOU call US ignorant and crazy!

      Get some medication..

      Sid

      April 29, 2012 at 5:49 am |
    • WWJD

      The Bible tells us to spread the word and warn others. Sometime we have to utelize colorful method so atheist see the rror of their way.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • EmilioSanchez

      Perhaps you should consider that the human spirit was never meant to live forever. It is more like a twinkie with an expiration date. After a long life you have seen and done most everything you desired. Your suffer pain. You are tired. Your body is broken. You desire nothing. At this point you've had enough and clearly know that living an eternity is not a goal. Let it go. Move on. Have the to consideration to be cremated so as to not leave a mess or take up real estate for no good reason.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • Human Ape

      I think WWJD is just pretending to be an idiot.

      Type "darwin killed god" in the google search box then click the I'm Feeling Lucky button.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • lolzz

      WWJD, you're violating CNN Terms of Service. Stop spamming please.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • D Anderson

      † Christianity is a religion that makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
      † Christianity is a disease that needs to be treated.
      † Christianity makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by Christians)
      † Christians are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
      † Christians causes problem in our society.
      † Christians are mentally ill, that's why they have faith.
      † Christianity won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
      † Christianity makes you agree with Stalin, Hitler (Denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
      † Christians are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
      † Christians try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
      † Christians do not really exist, they just pretend that they believe in God and argue with non-religious people.
      † Christians have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
      † Most Christians are uneducated... No Christians should run for presidency.
      † Christians cannot explain the origins of the universe, because they assume God exists.
      † Some Christians don't believe in evolution, which means they don't believe we are animals.
      † The Bible says atheism is wrong, but the Bible is often wrong (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
      † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the lowest crime rates!!

      † † Our hopes go out to Christians that they may be mentally healed and seek reality † †

      April 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  20. afreeman

    CNN, how about you guys start writing about things other than the big 3 bores. How about some articles about Afro-Carribean faiths, or Ancestor veneration in Asia, or neo-greek pagans, or Sikhs, or Chritisian 'heretical' sects like the arians etc etc etc etc

    April 29, 2012 at 5:19 am |
    • WWJD

      Christ is the only answer and the only one worth writing about.

      April 29, 2012 at 5:22 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      it's because the cult of christianity is the predominant cult in this country.

      and for the record, Love is the answer. though while we're waiting for the answer, S.ex does raise some pretty good questions...

      April 29, 2012 at 5:26 am |
    • lolzz

      WWJD, yer mum's a screamer. Now THAT's something to write about.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Arunas

      I work in a dental ofifce, so today I put a new patient in the schedule, had his paperwork all done up and chart ready. At the morning huddle the dentist and hygienist read through their patients for the day and what services they are getting. The name of my patient ? Bob Loblaw .. (say it out loud!) Of course, I kept asking what is his name again? It was hilarious!

      July 31, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.